Glenn Beck, the radio and television talk show host, is no stranger to controversy. Originally from Mt. Vernon, WA, Beck offers opinions that usually run counter found in our urban context. A proud libertarian, Beck creates heated opinions from many progressive liberals that populate Seattle.
He may have overstepped himself though by creating his latest controversy. Last week he encouraged his radio listeners to leave their churches if they support economic and social justice. He went on to say that churches that encourage these issues do so in support of either Nazism or communism. Since then many Christians bloggers have engaged Beck’s message and have denounced it.
There can be little doubt that the Judeo-Christian message centers around both economic and social justice. The largest critique leveled against the Jews in the book of Isaiah, for example, is that they allow the rich to take advantage of the poor. The Gospels present Jesus as a very unexpected Messiah who goes the extra mile to make sure the downtrodden received justice. In both traditions there is a special place for relieving debt. Both religions are centered around the issue of justice, with the largest difference being that God’s justice has begun to break in the world. It would be wrong to ignore that it is the role of synagogues and churches to carry on these commitment to justice.
It is no surprise that Christians called Beck out on this issue. He should be saying that his listeners should ignore these issues in their churches. But there is also the issue of whether Beck is anti-justice in such an anti-Christian way.
This author’s opinion is that Beck is not anti-justice, but rather that churches misuse this issue. Part of this reasoning is that Beck is a large supporter of charity and personal responsibility as part of his 9/12 project. What Beck is against is the government taking over responsibility where it might belong to individual or private institutions. He does not want to see the government being the entity which distributes charity and justice. This author’s opinion is that Beck believes that these issues belong solely in the church, and that any church that gladly gives up their authority to the government should be avoided.
There is truth to this position though. The secular state has a hard time in being humble and inherently wants to take the glory for any good thing that happens so that it might continue in existence. However the Christian message, at least, is very consistent on this point. God is to receive the glory in everything. By allowing the secular government to be the source of this justice and to receive the glory, churches are not proclaiming the true Gospel that it is by the death and resurrection of Jesus that God brings true justice to earth. This is why we pray, “May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Glenn Beck needs to spell this out better if this is what he believes. Otherwise he needs to address the difference in messages presented in his 9/12 project and what he said last week. If a church sees the government as any means to an end (as the bringer of justice to the world) then they are not proclaiming the Christian gospel which is centered around the issue of justice. In this sense Glenn Beck is right; if your church is preaching that we should support the government’s attempts to bring social and economic justice then we should re-examine our churches. Too often Christians allow the government to take the lead on this issue instead of proclaiming the victory of the cross. If we get back to preaching the gospel then we will be concerned with justice; but we will also be concerned in calling out the progressive agenda that believes that it is by human effort that justice is delivered. To God be the glory.
To read more:
CNN report on Beck and Christian bloggers
Glenn Beck’s 9/12 project